Bernie Feinstein allows each member of the senior men’s club at the Jewish Community Center in East Hills no more than two pieces of lox per meeting.
“If I allowed them to eat more, they would fill up their plates,” he said. “I’ve become the lox Nazi.”
Feinstein was sure to get flak for his rigid smoked salmon ways at his 100th birthday celebration on Wednesday, when he received recognition from the center as well as a roast from his friends.
Feinstein was born on Nov. 30, 1916, in Brooklyn, where he grew up playing football at public schools.
“In high school my parents put a stop to the football playing and I had to go into the family business to help out,” he said.
That business was a manufacturing company that sold lighting, lamps and imported gifts to stores like Lord & Taylor and Macy’s.
When he graduated from high school, Feinstein set off for New York University, where he studied business and economics and took a special interest in foreign relations.
The latter knowledge would prove relevant a few years later when Feinstein was drafted and sent to Europe to fight in World War II, where he spent two years with artillery units in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
“I told the others where to place the guns,” he said. “I went up as far as I could in a church steeple or on high ground to see where enemy guns were firing at us from. After directing our guns, I got out of the way because I could always become an object of enemy fire.”
After returning from the war, Feinstein went back to work with his father at the light manufacturing company, where he spent the remainder of his career.
While at a friend’s wedding in 1954, Feinstein met a woman 10 years his junior named Charlotte. Only months later, she became his wife. They remain married to this day.
“She has brought up our four beautiful children and taken care of her nutty husband,” he said.
Soon after their marriage, the couple moved to a home in Flower Hill, where they lived for 53 years.
“We added room after room after bathroom after bathroom in order to stay because the neighbors and the neighborhood were wonderful,” he said.
They have since moved to the North Shore Towers, a gated community in Floral Park.
Almost two decades ago Feinstein joined the Jewish Community Center to use its exercise facilities. He soon became a fixture of the community, becoming a founding member of its Gezunter club for senior men and earning the nickname “Bagel Bernie.”
“I found a lovely group of people,“ he said. “The JCC added new life to me; without it, I don’t think I would’ve reached a hundred.”
At his birthday party Feinstein was set to receive citations from Nassau County Legislators Delia DeRiggi-Whitton and Donald MacKenzie as well as New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine.
“The event is wonderful and it’s driving me crazy,” he said.
“It’s wonderful seeing all these great people that I’ve associated with but it’s just a little overwhelming. 100th birthday parties should be reserved for people in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.”